Complicating Manhood and Womanhood

From the male perspective, I’ve been introduced to a number of books on biblical manhood in which a Christian father is called to be a prophet, priest, and a king in his home. At various times, this has given me the impression that godliness for a Christian man is very different than godliness for a Christian woman. It has also given the impression that men need to fulfill these roles because women, in general, are delicate, frail, weak-minded, and are prone to deception. After hearing all of these discussions (which can be inconsistent or contradictory to each other), my wife and I asked ourselves the question: Is biblical womanhood and manhood meant to be this difficult? Are we making this a more complex topic than is biblically warranted?

 

For the majority of my Christian life, I was built up in the faith and nourished within conservative Pentecostal and Wesleyan-influenced churches. Within those circles, there were a number of topics that were constantly discussed, almost to the point of obsession (such as spiritual warfare, end time signs, dreams/visions, modesty, etc.). As I began to embrace Reformed theology and began to have more contact with the wider evangelical world, I noticed immediately that those aforementioned topics were hardly ever brought up.

Nowadays, the topic of discussion has invariably focused on biblical manhood and womanhood. When my wife goes on social media, she informs me of the proliferation of “mom blogs”, which seem to spend almost all of their time focusing on the “pink passages”. Along with these blogs are a large collection of books on “gospel-centered motherhood” or “serving God as a single woman”. At times, it has given the impression that Christian women can only really openly discuss the safe topics of biblical womanhood, such as childrearing, submission, or serving God in the home.

From the male perspective, I’ve been introduced to a number of books on biblical manhood in which a Christian father is called to be a prophet, priest, and a king in his home. At various times, this has given me the impression that godliness for a Christian man is very different than godliness for a Christian woman. It has also given the impression that men need to fulfill these roles because women, in general, are delicate, frail, weak-minded, and are prone to deception. After hearing all of these discussions (which can be inconsistent or contradictory to each other), my wife and I asked ourselves the question: Is biblical womanhood and manhood meant to be this difficult? Are we making this a more complex topic than is biblically warranted?

The Marks of Godliness

First, it should be stated that many of the marks of godliness that are geared towards women are also geared towards men elsewhere in Scripture. For example, women are encouraged to adorn themselves with a gentle and humble spirit (cf. 1 Peter 3:3-6), but aren’t these qualities simply the fruit of the Spirit for all believers (cf. Galatians 5:22-23)? Furthermore, Christian women are called to be reverent in behavior, sensible, and pure (cf. Titus 2:3-5). However, the same instruction is given to men within the same passage (cf. Titus 2:2,6-8). On the male side, men are encouraged to be sound in faith and in doctrine, yet Paul says throughout the epistles that believers (men and women) should encourage one another, admonish one another, and teach one another (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:14Colossians 3:16). In other words, the mark of biblical manhood and womanhood is simply this: godliness.

Biblical Roles and Culture

Second, I wonder how much of biblical manhood/womanhood is mixed with traditional American values. For example, many of the popular works on biblical womanhood place the identity of Christian women primarily (or solely) in the home. This is perhaps the strangest idea that has been attached to biblical womanhood because it is largely inconsistent with the history of women in the church and very culturally specific. It has also led to a number of speculative questions regarding biblical womanhood in the workplace (such as should a woman hold a position of civic authority). Within the New Testament church, there are numerous examples of women (such as Lydia, Dorcas, and Anna) who are described as doing significantly more than homemaking. I believe that Rachel Miller has said it best:

“But just as men are more than their careers, women are more than their familial responsibilities. We are believers and fellow heirs. We may well be called to serve God in additional ways. Taking care of our families can include discipling others as part of the family of God.”

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